In a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) health tracking poll completed in February, nearly eight in ten Americans said the cost of prescription drugs is “unreasonable.” As a means of combating those rising costs, consumers have implemented a number of unhealthy strategies meant to make prescriptions last longer and lighten the financial burden, including rationing or skipping doses completely.
But there are more acceptable, less dangerous ways to stretch your dollar when it comes to medication. Time magazine has created a list of six ways to save money on prescription drugs—here are our favorite ideas from the piece and thoughts on each approach.
- Ask why. It seems obvious, but don’t be afraid to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about the prescription you’re given. As a patient, it’s your right! The KFF survey showed that only 42% of Americans are talking to their doctor about the cost associated with their new medication. If you aren’t comfortable talking to your doctor, you can also speak with a pharmacist. As Time points out, these professionals are often aware of the intricacies involved with pricing and can be a wealth of information. It really is in your best interest to learn more about the medication you’re putting into your body.
- Know your insurance. Insurance plans are incredibly complex and unique, which means even if your friend or a family member has the same carrier, your plans may differ greatly. Time suggests that you take a moment to understand the details of your plan’s design, which includes your monthly premium, deductible, covered drugs, and whether those drugs are name brand or generic medications. In many cases, an insurance plan’s website can provide you with this information. If you would prefer to speak to someone, your insurance card should have a phone number for members to call.
- Switch to generic medication. Remember rule No. 1 about asking why your drugs cost what they do? The other piece of that conversation that you should be asking is if a generic drug is available. In the KFF survey, only 20% admitted to asking their doctor for a more affordable alternative. It’s important that you realize a generic isn’t any less potent or effective. For the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a generic, Time reports, it must have the same active ingredient as the name brand and enter the bloodstream at about the same rate and quantity. There may be minor differences between the two, like fillers or coatings, but your doctor can advise on any nuanced changes that might negatively affect you or the drug’s ability to treat your condition.
- Try charitable programs. Though it might sometimes feel like you’re on your own when it comes to rising drug costs, that’s fortunately not the case. The Time piece reminds readers that there are currently eight national charitable relief programs in the U.S. For patients who meet the eligibility criteria, these programs supply financial aid. Some require you to have insurance and an income at or below a certain level, though requirements do vary by program. Your doctor should be able to provide you with information on programs that might be a fit for your specific situation.
- Be a savvy shopper. Time brings up an excellent point that prescription costs can vary from store to store. When it comes to household or consumer goods, most people take the time to research which store carries the item at the best price. Why should prescription drugs be any different? There are plenty of ways to save money on prescriptions, but one we particularly support is using a mail-order service. These can often be more cost-effective options than brick-and-mortar pharmacies but be sure to confirm they take your insurance before placing an order.
- Order less of more. This one goes back to clear communication with your doctor or the pharmacist, but you can always inquire about breaking tablets. This practice involves ordering fewer pills in a higher dose and then cutting each pill in half. Ever notice that most pills have a line down the middle? That score is there to ensure accuracy if you cut the pill. But as Time warns, you can’t split all drugs. For instance, you should not divide those with time-release formulas or pills molded into unique shapes. You should also only split pills as needed and not split the whole bottle at one time, since some medications can have reduced effectiveness if exposed to air or moisture.
While there has been a lot of talk in political circles about enacting changes that would bring relief to consumers struggling to pay for their prescriptions, no official changes have occurred. Until that time, it’s on consumers to safely and smartly find ways to afford the drugs that may be saving their lives.
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